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Friday, March 9, 2012

Lupus - A Growing Epidemic in African-American Women



According to The American College of Rheumatology, Lupus, a complicated autoimmune disease that primarily affects young women can be difficult to diagnose.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (known as SLE or lupus) is a type of arthritis. It is classified as an autoimmune disease that affects various tissues and organs of the body. This disease affects people of all color and ages. However, it primarily affects individuals between the ages of 15 to 45 years of age; attacking women ten times more than men and African American women are three times more likely to come down with this disease.
The fact that lupus is systemic makes it a complicated disease. When the immune system is attacked, inflammation results as one of the body's defense mechanisms. Inflammation causes discomfort and will leave severe damage if untreated. In rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation affects the joints and over time will produce joint deformity. Since lupus is a systemic disease, it affects more than just the joints. It can affect other organs such as skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain.
Symptoms of Lupus
Most common signs and symptoms include the following:
Joint pain and swelling
Fever
Skin rash
Kidney problems
This disease is difficult to diagnose and it may take time to confirm whether or not an individual has it. Therefore, several blood testing samples may be required over a period of one year. Many health professionals consider the diagnosing of this disease a diagnosis of exclusion because other medical conditions have to be ruled out during the process. Mayo Clinic published an online article regarding tests and diagnosis, citing the American College of Rheumatology criterion for the proper diagnosis of lupus.
American College of Rheumatology Criterion for Lupus
According to the American College of Rheumatology, four of the following 11 symptoms for a period of several months confirm the diagnosis of lupus. Read on. 
  • Malar rash: facial area only
  • Scaly rash (discoid rash): raised, scaly patches on parts of the body
  • Sun-related rash
  • Mouth ulcers: painless
  • Joint pain and swelling in two or more joints
  • Swelling of the linings around the lungs or the heart
  • Kidney disease
  • Central nervous system problems: seizures or psychosis
  • Abnormal lab work: low red blood count (anemia), low platelet count (thrombocytopenia), and/or low white cell count (leukopenia), positive antinuclear antibody test (ANA): indicative of an autoimmune disease
  • Other abnormal lab work: positive double-stranded anti-DNA test, positive anti-Sm test, positive Anti-phospholipid antibody test or false-positive syphilis test (these tests are more specific for confirming the diagnosis of lupus), elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and elevated c-reactive protein (CRP), both indicative of a systemic inflammatory reaction.
There are several forms of lupus and this disease can be induced by certain medications. There are more than three-dozen drugs associated with drug-induced lupus. However, a few common drugs associated with this type are hydralazine, procainamide, and quinidine. If lupus is drug-induced, it is cured when the medication responsible is discontinued. There is no cure for the other types of lupus. However, the good news is that medical researchers continue putting forth great effort to find a cure for this chronic disease. With proper treatment, people with lupus are able to live long meaningful lives.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, don't wonder if your just experiencing common body aches. Take the initiative to contact your healthcare provider immediately for diagnosing and get the treatment you may need.
Lupus can attack major organs of the body (skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain). So if left undiagnosed, it is untreated, and if it is untreated this disease could result in serious health complications, including death. If you have questions please seek advice from your healthcare provider and the American Lupus Foundation for further information.


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